Last Night's Viewing: Homeland, Channel 4, 9pm

Homeland's back, and like all great puzzles its as complex and compelling as ever

"Previously on Homeland" read a title at the beginning of "The Smile", the first episode of a drama that returned to British viewers last night with six, box-fresh Emmys in its trophy cabinet.

Good luck with that, I thought. This convoluted tale about an American POW turned Islamist sleeper agent and the bipolar CIA spook determined to expose him was a challenge to summarise an episode at a time. Compressing a whole series into a minute and a half seemed a forlorn hope.

The fans, of course, won't really need it anyway, well aware that we left Carrie with a couple of hundred volts running through her temporal lobes and Brody poised ambiguously on the brink of a political career.

If entryism really is his new strategy it's working very nicely.

"I had you vetted by my search committee," says the Vice-President, dropping in on Congressman Brody to say that he's thinking of him as the running mate for his own presidential bid. "What did we miss Nick? What flaw in your character, what deep, abiding secret?" Brody smiles enigmatically and says nothing.

Meanwhile, Carrie is teaching English to immigrants and the Stars and Stripes are burning outside the American embassy in Beirut, after an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

When one of Carrie's former assets says she has information about an imminent attack, but that she'll only deliver it to the woman who recruited her, Estes and Saul are forced to beg for help. "You'll be back in three days," Saul reassures her.

Brody is also being wooed by his former associates, contacted by a Palestinian television journalist with a message from Abu Nizar. They want him to steal information from Estes' safe during a security briefing.

"I am not a terrorist", he protests. But the intermediary insists – "Nicholas, we're at war. You have to choose which side you're on" – and eventually Brody seems to pick her side. The resulting scene, classic will-he-be-caught tension, wasn't exactly convincing. Who, in an era of smartphones, would laboriously transcribe a list of names by hand rather than simply taking a picture? Which isn't to say you don't edge forward in your seat all the same. The machinery might be well-worn but it still works.

In any case, the strength of Homeland isn't the occasionally dubious tradecraft (going through immigration at Beirut airport Carrie looks so transparently shifty even a six-year-old child would pull her in for questioning). It's the way it feeds human feeling into a spy thriller.

Two scenes exemplified that last night. In the first, Brody rowed with his wife after she discovered his conversion to Islam. When she threw his Koran to the garage floor he yelped with reflexive dismay (one assumes a stunt-double was used for the desecration) and he's later seen burying the damaged book in a reverential ceremony. In the current climate that was a genuinely bold thing to put before an American audience. In the other scene, Carrie, having extricated herself from a threatening situation in the field, gave a jittery little smile of exhilaration as she walked away. Danger, it seems, works far better than lithium to raise the spirits.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?